British upgrade defense simulations for console generation

Posted by Kate Taylor

Britain's Ministry of Defence has admitted that its war simulations aren't up to scratch for a generation reared on the PlayStation and Xbox.

Soldiers on their way off to Afghanistan are trained on a simulation called Virtual Battlespace 2, developed back in 2007. But this is a big disappointment to anybody who's used to modern high-budget games such as Call of Duty, the MoD's Andrew Poulter told the Guardian.

"Back in the 1980s and 1990s, defence was far out in terms of quality simulation. Military-built simulators were state of the art," he says.

"But now, for £50, you can buy a commercial game that will be far more realistic than the sorts of tools we were using."

Part of the problem is that the military simulations need to be rather more accurate than commercial games. "The weapons need to be credible. If they fire a rifle and the bullet travels three and a half miles, then that is not right,"
 says Poulter.

As a result, the MoD is working on making some of its simulations a little more exciting by boosting image quality.

Staff at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory in Portsdown, Hampshire, have launched a project called Kite - knowledge information test environment - which is aimed at improving matters by buying in technology from games companies.

This will be tweaked to make it more accurately depict real-life situations and weapons.

"It is certainly a lot more fun than going through lists of checks and box-ticking," says Poulter.

"We want them to think 'I would quite like to do a bit more of that kind of thing'. So they might spend 10 minutes [on a simulation] after reading papers in the morning, or in their spare time."